Sunday, 30 April 2017

Concert Review: "Hans Zimmer Revealed" (2017).

"Confession time!!! The mere idea of playing a Live Tour terrifies me beyond belief... A number of people used to ask me why I had never done a full tour - and the honest truth was because of stage fright. As I look out from the stage at everybody, I still fell like I am standing stark naked under a spotlight, on the very coldest night of the year... I am vulnerable. I am petrified... but you cannot have fear rule your life, or indeed dictate or prevent your actions. Just like anyone else I have to shake it off, look you in the eyes, and get on with it." Mr. Zimmer has certainly done that and beyond with his spectacular Hans Zimmer Revealed (2017) concert. I was honoured to attend the concert and meet Mr. Zimmer himself. I also got to take a photo with the legend and get a concert programme personally signed by him.

Every aspect of the event was worth every penny and second as it packed more than enough entertainment value to live up to its ambition. Out of all the concerts I have attended, Mr. Zimmer and his incredible ensemble have given me the greatest concert experience I have ever witnessed. It is the greatest film concert ever witnessed – and maybe the best film concert, period. It was pure film nirvana. The concert was a masterful one, one that will appeal to both movie lovers and new fans alike. It's obvious, but the concert gives us Hans Zimmer in a fresh way. The concert reinvigorates an unappreciated genre with an extraordinary touch.

For the concert, Mr. Zimmer remarked: "Music has the power to move people, to affect them in a way that is visceral. It can transcend politics, bring cultures together, and inspire people to learn and take action. If my musical scores can contribute in some way to effecting change, I will have accomplished an important personal goal." As well as "I want everything I do to be about love. We live in a day of instant communication. I get to see and read from people whose hearts I touch through music - and that is my greatest joy." This concert does indeed delivers a close-up of Mr. Zimmer and his ensemble doing something they clearly love. Mr. Zimmer and his ensemble are the kind of band that prove even an average performance by them isn't boring. "Creating breakthrough music is about collaboration. It's about hearing others and developing a sound that tells tells the story of many and expresses the emotions of each one of us." Each of Mr. Zimmer's ensemble has done exactly that. Each brought their unique sounds to the show. Which includes the talents of Nick Glennie-Smith, Yolanda Charles, Aicha Djidelli, Pedro Eustache, Guthrie Govan, Tina Guo, Gary Kettel, Lebo M, Holly Madge, Nile Marr, Steve Mazzaro, Andy Page, Andy Pask, Satnam Singh Ramgotra, Refi, Molly Rogers, Czarina Russell, Nathan Stornetta and Leah Zeger. Mr. Zimmer commented that "Not all films we score are recorded with full orchestras; often, as in the case of 12 Years a Slave, the music involves an intimate group of musicians in a small room creating the score in an organic, natural way..." And boy was I able to sense the natural camaraderie amongst all of them. Each may have blown us away with their amazing solos, but their power could not be matched when they played together.

Mr. Zimmer's musical highlights - Driving Miss DaisyCrimson TideGladiatorThe Da Vinci CodeThe Lion KingTrue RomanceRain ManThelma and LouiseMan of SteelThe Thin Red LineThe Dark KnightInterstellar and Inception - still astound. Everyone in the auditorium and I knew that this was going to be an experience that we will never forget and cherish for the rest of our lives. Throughout the entire performance, the audience and I were constantly cheering and yelling "Yeah!", "Oh my God!" and "Awesome!" There was a dazzling array of talent on display here, and the event surely has its memorable moments. This was truly an event where people from all over Auckland from different ethic and social backgrounds were brought together by music. In addition, I banged my head and tapped my foot throughout the performance to my favourite pieces. I was overwhelmed beyond imagination by the sheer power of Mr. Zimmer and his ensemble. Some people may complain about the ear-deafening noise, but in the words of Sir Ridley Scott: "I don't really like music quiet, I don't like it when people say: You shouldn't hear the music in a movie, that's total bullshit." 

The concert is our best insight to a legendary giant who has given us some of the greatest contribution to cinema. This labour of love, one of the most awe-inspiring performances, presents and continues to preserve the immense body of work that prevails in the pop culture zeitgeist for the past few decades and will continue to do so for many years to come. Mr. Zimmer said: "Movies' genres have become clichés; they are either action, drama, or comedy. You don't frequently see movies that are provocative. I think films that force the audience to experience something new are the most important. The music helps push those limits." And as I said to Mr. Zimmer, it was an honour to meet him and thanked him for the performance and his contribution to cinema. Finally, note to self: Definitely need to go to more film concerts.

Simon says Hans Zimmer Revealed receives:

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Film Review: "Before I Wake" (2016).

"Fear your dreams" in Before I Wake. This supernatural dark fantasy horror film directed by Mike Flanagan, and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. Jessie and Mark decide to take in a sweet and loving 8-year-old boy, Cody. Unbeknownst to them, Cody is terrified of falling asleep. At first, they assume his previous unstable homes caused his aversion to sleep, but soon discover why: Cody's dreams manifest in reality as he sleeps. In one moment they experience the incredible wonder of Cody's imagination, and in the next, the horrific nature of his night terrors. To save their new family, Jessie and Mark embark on a dangerous hunt to uncover the truth behind Cody's nightmares.

In early September 2013, it was announced that Flanagan was set to direct a horror film called Somnia that he co-wrote with Howard. By early November, Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, and Dash Mihok were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid December. Filming took place throughout Alabama. In early April 2014, Relativity Media acquired the US distribution rights to the film. In March 2015, the title was changed to Before I Wake, apparently over Flanagan's objections. The film was originally scheduled to be released on May 8, 2015, but was pushed back to September 25, 2015, and later pulled from the schedule due to the company's filing for bankruptcy. The film was rescheduled to April 8, 2016, and then rescheduled to September 9, 2016. It was then pulled from the schedule. In December 2017, it was revealed that Netflix had obtained United States rights to the film from Relativity Media, thus owning worldwide rights. Netflix released the film in the U.S. on January 5, 2018.

The film stars Bosworth, Jane, Tremblay, Gish, and Mihok. Ultimately, though, it is the characters that count. Flanagan and his cast gave emotional resonance to the story of a charming family undone by unexplained forces; and his actors go a long way in portraying this with honesty.

With an emphasis on dread over gore and an ending that leaves the door wide open for follow-ups, Before I Wake could be just the first spine-tingling chapter in a new franchise for discerning horror fans. It's a smarter-than-average nightmares-come-to-life movie that speaks to a couple of widespread anxieties-one topical, the other sadly timeless. Horror fans shouldn't miss the film; films as creepy as this one don't come along too often. The film does more to a familiar premise than most standard-issue scary movies out there. A clever storyline keeps the pace, although it could be argued the film had too many storylines going for its running time. The final product is a beautifully shot and wonderful acted entry in the never-ending pool of niche horror movies looking to shock, scare, and unnerve. It was actually awesome, even though I didn't have any expectations for it at all. I'm happy to tell you that this one was well thought-out with some great performances.

Simon says Before I Wake receives:

Also, see my review for Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Film Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017).

"You only get one chance to save the galaxy twice." So here comes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This superhero film based on the titular Marvel Comics superhero team, written and directed by James Gunn and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the sequel to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and the fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film continues the team's adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill's true parentage.

At the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International, a sequel was officially announced a before the theatrical release of the first film, with a July 2017 release date. Gunn's and the cast were conformed to return in July 2014 October 2014. During the writing process, Gunn proposed the idea of Ego the Living Planet being Star-Lord's father. Unfortunately, Marvel did not have the rights to Ego, the rights were owned by 20th Century Fox. Since Gunn did not have any other characters in mind for Star-Lord's father, he had to ask Fox if he could use the character. Fortunately, Fox agreed to let Marvel have Ego, in return for Fox having more creative freedom regarding the character of Negasonic Teenage Warhead for Deadpool (2016). In addition, in May 2015, Gunn wanted to include the characters of Mantis and Adam Warlock. Ultimately, the latter was removed from the final draft. In June, the title of the film was confirmed to be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In October, Pom Klementieff was cast as Mantis, and Matthew McConaughey was offered the role of Ego, but he eventually passed on the role. Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen, Christoph Waltz, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, and Liam Neeson were considered for the role before Kurt Russell entered negotiations. Principal photography began in February 2016 at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia, and wrapped in June 2016. This was the first film to utilise the RED WEAPON 8K digital camera. It is the digital equivalent to VistaVision, a higher definition 35mm format developed in the 1950s. At San Diego Comic-Con 2016, Russell and Debicki were confirmed for the roles of Ego and Ayesha. Sylvester Stallone was also confirmed to be in the film. In January 2017, Gunn stated that the film contains five mid- and post-credits scenes, all of which were written and directed by him.

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan and Sean Gunn reprised their roles. The film also stars Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. The performances in this film, new and old, did anything but kill the film thanks to the cast's impressive collective charisma. However, the film's stand-out performance was from none other than Rooker who made Yondu everybody's new favourite character.

It may not live up to its unexpected predecessor, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still offers plenty of the humour and high-stakes action that fans have come to expect. In the end, the film delivers the goods - action, otherworldly adventure and humour, of course.

Simons says Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 receives:

Also, see my review for Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Film Review: "Song to Song" (2017).

"Love. Obsession. Betrayal." This is Song to Song. This experimental romantic drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick. Set against the Austin, Texas, music scene, two entangled couples -- struggling songwriters Faye and BV, and music mogul Cook and the waitress whom he ensnares -- chase success through a rock 'n' roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.

In November 2011 it was announced that Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Haley Bennett had been cast in the film, then originally entitled Lawless. In December 2011, Mara said that filming was scheduled to begin in September 2012. By early September 2012, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Val Kilmer, Bérénice Marlohe, Holly Hunter, Benicio del Toro, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes and Angela Bettis rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place over only forty days over a time period of nearly two years. Filming took place in Austin, Texas and Yucatán, Mexico. According to Gosling, there was no script used while shooting. Malick wanted the film to convey how life feels like a series of moments which is why there are so many songs & locations used in the film. Post-production on the film took longer than expected because the film's eight-hour first cut required Malick to ask the financiers and studios more than once for additional time. In October 2013 Fassbender provided voice-over that the actor said might be cut from the completed film. Bale also expressed doubts about whether he would appear.  In January 2016 Mara revealed she did voice-over for the film. Ultimately, Bale, Bennett, del Toro, Arcade Fire, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, Holbrook, Rhodes and Bettis were all cut from the film. In February 2016 producer Sarah Green confirmed the film's title was Weightless. However, in January 2017, it was later changed to Song to Song. In December 2016 it was announced that Iggy Pop, John Lydon, Arcade Fire, Alan Palomo, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes and The Black Lips would appear in the film.

The film stars Gosling, Fassbender, Mara, Portman, Blanchett, Kilmer, Marlohe, and Hunter. Despite their eagerness to work with him, Malick has an uncanny ability to expose the limits of even the best performers.

The film finds Malick delving deeper into the painterly visual milieu he's explored in recent efforts, but even hardcore fans may struggle with the diminishing narrative returns. Malick does a good job of laying out the monstrous, indulgent allure of showbiz that pulled BV and Faye in and broke them down into the wandering, pulp of the people they are. For anyone who is expecting a plot, an emotional connection to complicated characters, or some semblance of motivation, they will be frustrated by the film. Each individual obtains his or her own meanings from the auteur's films. The problem here is that there is too little substance for anyone to feel anything meaningful or profound. For loyal Malick fans, the woozy dream-logic visuals here may be enough. But this director is hardly the perceptive student of human nature he's cracked up to be.

Simon says Song to Song receives:

Also, see my review for Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey.

Film Review: "Free Fire" (2016).

"All guns. No control." This is Free Fire. This British black comedy-action film directed by Ben Wheatley, from a screenplay by Wheatley and Amy Jump. In Boston in the 1970s, a black market weapons deal between Chris, the buyer, and Vernon, the dealer, goes terribly wrong and turns into a large-scale shootout.

By early June 2015, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley and Noah Taylor were cast in a British black comedy-action film written by Wheatley and Jump, and with Wheatley directing. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid July. Filming took place in Brighton, East Sussex.

The film stars Copley, Hammer, Larson, Murphy, Reynor, Ceesay, Cilenti, Riley, Smiley and Taylor. The cast are great and commanding, while Copley and Hammer are hilariously submissive. Their performances here are equal to and better than the characters they have created for both cinema and television. Although Wheatley and Jump have gotten away with eliminating exposition and traditional character detail in the past, it's frustratingly difficult to follow what this motley group is searching for, much less to distinguish between the various personalities.

There are few directors out there who can achieve the appropriate balance between horrific violence and laugh-out-loud comedy, but Wheatley's masterful touch makes this a consistently enjoyable. Wheatley's control has never seemed greater, the music cues, the deft editing by Wheatley and Jump, and the performances all so sharp that the film is allowed to be viewed properly as the gem that it is. It's hard to quibble with the film, and its satirical, observational eye is spot on, mining to laser-like effect hitherto underdocumented subjects in British comedy cinema. Not only is the film a relishable achievement for its devisers, but it enhances Wheatley's reputation as currently the most refreshingly offbeat and unpredictable director of British crime movies. The film is everything you could want from a dark comedy infused with crime and is by far Wheatley's most assured work to date. Uncomfortably lurching from broad slapstick to dark and sharp violence - often in the space of a single scene - the film adds up to a rather jumbled whole, despite the punchlines hitting as often as they miss. Devised by Wheatley and Jump, his professional and personal partner, the movie pokes fun at the social limitations of these lumpen Midlanders without sneering at or patronizing them. It's definitely not for everyone, but if you can stand the stink of the human condition, the film will linger in the lobes of your imagination long enough to make you laugh. For all its drawbacks, the film is undoubtedly best on the big screen -- if just for its striking visuals and memorable oddities. It becomes a film that necessitates and acquired taste to appreciate it. That being said, if you have enjoyed any of Wheatley's films to date you should check out this one as well.

Simon says Free Fire receives:

Also, see my review for High-Rise.